This collection of pieces for string orchestra marks the eightieth
birthday of the composer and music administrator Sir John Manduell
in 2008. He was Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music,
1971-1996. In this and in other capacities he was an active encourager
of young composers. He commissioned and presented some 250 works
from a wide spectrum of composers.
Suite No. 2 for strings is from1942 and takes its name
from the 1603 Thesaurus Harmonicus by Jean-Baptiste
Besard. It was premiered by the Boyd Neel Orchestra on 3 December
1945 at the Wigmore Hall with the composer conducting. The
music has the flavour of Warlock's Capriol, Moeran's
Whythorne's Shadow and Serenade and Rubbra's
Farnaby Improvisations. The First Besardo Suite
is for full orchestra.
Lennox Berkeley's Antiphon
is dedicated to Manduell. It became a something of a Cheltenham
Festival perennial being premiered there in 1973 and repeated
in 1974, 1978, 1981 and 1993. It is in two segments and is
written in language far more emotional than we are accustomed
to from Berkeley at this stage in his career. It is potent
writing, full of passion and with a Tippett-style adrenaline
rush. The second of the two movements is more understated
but remains heavily freighted with emotion - rather like a
more contemporary version of Josef Suk's Wenceslas Meditation.
It is good to welcome
the three movement Suite No.1 for string orchestra
by Peter Crossley-Holland. This work, together with his Violin
Sonata, won him a scholarship to the RCM to study with John
Ireland in 1938-39. The folk-like first movement gives place
to a touching Celtic melody akin to Danny Boy, before
the return of the step-it-lively finale, again Capriol-style.
The Crosse Elegy
and Scherzo is a rewrite of the central movements of his
1979 string quartet. The music rumbles dissonance and the
occasional angularity. There is also the odd flash of writing
typical of Britten. The piercing Elegy is succeeded
by the gawky pizzicato Alla Marcia.
Anthony Gilbert's Another
Dream Carousel has an aggressive desperate ruthlessness
about it which gives place to a not untense and often piercingly
searing poignant waltz sequence. The work is dedicated to
Gilbert's pre-war Viennese friend Daisy Koppmann: born 1922;
date of death unknown.
for Nine is for string octet plus double-bass. This is
a dramatic and virtuosic work with much prominence for the
double-bass. It also may remind you of the rhetorical attack
of Maw's Life Studies. The work rises to a boiling
tormented climax at both the bass and upper sectors of the
spectrum. Mid-period Tippett-like chatter intervenes from
time to time but the whole feels well resolved.
John Turner, that magician
of the recording project and animateur of so much musical
life in the North-West, provides the liner-notes.
We wish Sir John many years to come and
hope to hear more of his own compositions.
This is then a provocative
collection which may well set you exploring some new names.
As an anthology is full of pleasing if not always undemanding